HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc454-5
13. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes in the attitude of international passport conferences there have been concerning the use by a wife or widow of a joint passport unilaterally.

Miss Joan Lestor

None, Sir. It has been internationally agreed practice since 1926 that the head of a family may travel alone with a family passport but that it may not be used by his wife. Widows may hold a passport as head of a family, but they are advised not to travel with their former husband's passport.

Mr. Shaw

Nevertheless, does not my hon. Friend agree that in this year particularly, it being International Women's Year, this is certainly an anomaly? Will Her Majesty's Government do something about the matter by taking the initiative?

Miss Lestor

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, but this is an anomaly in all years and not only this year. We consulted a number of Governments about a joint passport which might be used by either party when travelling alone. We found some support but by no means complete support. In the absence of any greater support in dealing with these issues we do not consider that there would be very much point in calling a conference, but we have the matter very much in mind.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does my hon. Friend not accept that support would come from Englishwomen, Scotswomen and Welsh women? Does she agree that this is precisely the sort of anomalous situation that suggests that a husband is a person in his own right but a wife is not?

Miss Lestor

I think that all the women in the House are very much women in their own right, with or without husbands. I totally support what my hon. Friend has said. This is not a restriction that the British Government have any part in, and we would like to see it changed. However, we do not have the necessary co-operation. I think that any persons speaking on International Women's Year, be they male or female, would do well to draw attention to this matter.